The Bear Lake Trifecta is a race that has developed a cult-like following. All of my running groups have huge meet ups there every year. The first time you hear about it, you think it’s insane. Who wants to run 3 half marathons (or marathons) in three different states on 3 consecutive days in the dead of summer? But after a couple years of seeing everyone’s posts you drink the kool-aid. One flight, one weekend trip to plan, 3 states for the price of one! Yes, this is a great idea!
Let me first warn you that this is a very bare-bones race. They have high hopes since they get so many people to come out to the middle of nowhere but a lot of those plans never come to fruition. Pre and post race parties will be advertised but when you get there nothing will be going on. The pre-race dinner location wasn’t even done being built! This is a great way to meet new people. The handful of you who read the race website and expected a party will get to know each other as you wait for the party to not happen.
Bare bones also means that you shouldn’t expect much in the way of on-course hydration and fuel. It will be promised but there won’t be enough stops and they won’t have typical race fuel that you are used to. Bring your own hydration and fuel or risk heat exhaustion. Also bring two pairs of different running shoes that are broken in. Running on consecutive days means you will have to contend with blisters and sore spots from the day before. Wearing the same shoes means irritating those same areas. Lost toenails, ankles with skin worn off them, blisters in places you have never had them before. Bring lots of Vaseline and rotate shoes or you will have a very rough weekend.
Day 1 Idaho
All three races are at altitudes of 2000-4000 ft above sea level. You will feel it when walk you out of the airport. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. The thought of running in this did not excite me. There is very little shade and you are out during the hottest part of the day. Normally I like to run at one pace the entire time but I had to run/walk as my lungs adjusted to the altitude.
They will remind you to put on bug spray and sunblock repeatedly. They aren’t joking. Even with precautions you will be covered in bug bites and cooked by the end of the first day. Through pants, tights and arm sleeves you will still get bitten. Wear a hat unless you want to peel burnt skin off the top of your ears.
Day 2- Wyoming
This is the most beautiful state that I have ever seen. Endless ranches with horses and other livestock. Amazing views of rolling green hills and natural streams. The friendliest people who love that all these people came from around the country to their little town. It’s great that Wyoming is so beautiful because it will be a much harder course than day 1.
Very hilly. Absolutely no shade. One hydration stop. This is where you will start making friends with other runners if you haven’t already. The veterans will have extra gels, water, salt tablets, etc.
Day 3- Utah
They will tell you when and where to pick up the shuttle to the start line. When you get there it will be gone. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone. After getting directions you will drive the 15 minutes to the start line, passing runners the entire time. You will park at a shady gas station that they swear is a safe place to keep your car. You will start running faster than you should because you’re anxious and late. Then a couple minutes will go by and other runners will start to pass you. Other people started later than you. That is comforting. By the first mile you will catch up with the field and all will be right with the world.
This course goes through three very different areas. #1 An extremely wealthy rural neighborhood with amazing houses and raspberry fields. People will say hi to you as you run by. You will stop and take pictures because the backdrop of the mountains behind these houses is too beautiful to pass by but also because there are steep hills and you will need to take breaks. You will feel like the neighborhood is endless. You will swear the lake is getting closer after every hill but then it will seem to get further away.
#2 A wildlife area that is extremely rocky and steep. When you walk through the gate to enter the area there will be a sign warning you of bears in the area. You will not see any race support here. If you run extremely technical trail races regularly or are very sure footed you won’t have a problem here. Otherwise take it slow or risk breaking an ankle. It seems cruel to put this on day 3 when your body is already beat up.
#3 A flat, paved trail along the main road you have been driving on all weekend. You will pass lots of tourists on rented bikes and locals jogging and getting their boats ready for the lake. This will be a welcome relief but it will seem to go on forever. Did you really drive this far? Does this road ever end? You’re sure the park was just around the corner. When you finish you will be estatic. You will pose with all your new friends and gorge yourself on local treats (for sale at the finish). Don’t get too comfortable because you will need to find someone to give you a ride back to the start line where you parked.
If you have any problems, email the race director. He will respond but it may take days since the race is seriously understaffed for it’s size. Getting your time corrected after the race, getting your medal and your swag if they were out of then when you finished, etc. will all be resolved but it will be weeks after the race is over.
There is a hot springs in Idaho about 40 minutes from the finish. Whenever there is a natural hot springs near a race I reward myself with a visit (also see Little Rock, Arkansas and Missoula, Montana). Your body will thank you.
You will have a dozen new friends by the end of the weekend. You will be part of this cult of people commiserating and fondly reminiscing about your adventure. You feel like you’ve lived through a natural disaster. Glad that’s over. But you know if you did it again, armed with all the knowledge and prep of a veteran it might. It be that bad….